The West Coast Fever have come away with a nail-biting win (69-65) over a relentless Sunshine Coast Lightning at RAC Arena.
The home side were hungry for the four points after going down last week for their fourth one-goal loss of the season against the Thunderbirds, while the Lightning looked to carry momentum following their much-needed Round 11 win over the Magpies.
Lightning came out firing with intense physicality and tight defence across the court.
Lightning coach Belinda Reynolds explored the depth of her roster, handing young guns Ava Black (WD) and Ash Ervin (GK) their first starts in the Lightning line-up.
Ervin showed no signs of fear against Fever powerhouse Jhaniele Fowler, coming up with one deflection and two intercepts in the opening quarter.
The hosts pushed their noses out in front through a stellar intercept by Jess Anstiss, after going goal-for-goal in the first ten minutes.
Fever’s attack line put their foot down in the opening Power Five, pushing their lead out to seven (20-13) going into the initial break.
Ervin continued her form into the second quarter coming up with an early intercept, but Verity Simmons took the wind out of the Lightning sails, winning the ball back down the other end.
Both sides struggled to steady in the second quarter, but it was the Fever who found their feet first, pushing the margin out to six (25-19).
As the Lightning trailed, it was Steph Wood who tried to keep her side in range with a couple of Super Shot attempts. But the Lightning skipper couldn’t drain the two pointers and Charlie Bell entered the game.
Sasha Glasgow’s radar was on, slotting in two consecutive Super Shots and the Fever took a ten-goal lead going into half time.
Both mid-courts had huge impact on the game, with Lightning attacker Mahalia Cassidy topping the Nissan NetPoints for the match (112.5) and Verity Simmons being named MVP.
A tactical timeout was called by the home side as the third Power Five loomed and Rudi Ellis entered the game at GK.
Wood found her range draining two all-important Super Shots as the Lightning trailed by four but down the other end Glasgow was up for the challenge, nailing three of her own and easing the pressure off the Fever in the final quarter.
In the fourth term Lightning changed things up in their seven, rearranging their attack line (Wood to WA, Koenen to GA and Bell to GS) and Kadie-Ann Dehaney made her first appearance of the game at GK.
Fever’s defence swarmed the Lightning goal-third, forcing a held ball and Fowler rewarded her defenders down the other end. Courtney Bruce finished in fine form with seven deflections, three rebounds and one intercept to her name.
The positional changes didn’t pay off for Lightning and Wood moved back into GA, with her Australian Diamond’s teammate Koenen taking back the GS bib.
After trailing for most of the game, a Super Shot off the hot hands of Wood brought the energy back into the Lightning side and the margin was back to 4 (67-63).
The home side called the final timeout of the game with a five-goal lead and one minute left of play. Back on court, the Fever chose to run down the clock, but Fowler was called with a held ball, giving Lightning their last chance to steal the win.
Koenen was forced to take a Super Shot but failed to sink it and the green army stormed home, with Fowler taking a one-point goal on the buzzer.